What motivates travelers in Asia Pacific?

Hilton Honors releases new study that explores travel motivations and aspirations of APAC travelers. Source: Shutterstock

EIGHTY-EIGHT percent of travelers based in Asia Pacific feel their “love of travel is a huge part of how they define themselves”, with three in four aspiring to be a “travel expert in their social circle”, reveals a recent study by Hilton Honors.

The research, surveying 2,300 avid travelers aged between 20-45 in 11 Asia Pacific countries and segmented by life stage, explored the travel motivations, aspirations and expectations of the region’s most active travelers.

“Travel is a deep passion for most travelers in Asia Pacific,” said Hilton senior director in Customer Engagement, Loyalty, and Partnerships Asia Pacific Sarah Somerville.

“It gives them a real sense of pride and has become a core part of how they define themselves. Today’s travelers want to live like locals, feel inspired by the places they visit and experience a transformative journey that is wholly their own. They also embrace the role technology can play, not only in making their travel experience more efficient, but also in enhancing the planning stage through the use of augmented reality and virtual reality technologies.”

The 2019 study, comprising an extensive quantitative survey of travelers aged 20-45 and in-depth interviews with Gen Y travel taste-makers, revealed three key themes: travel and the role it plays in identity, technology and the future of travel, and the importance of experiential travel:

Travel and identity

Defined by travel: Eighty-nine percent feel ‘being able to travel is a point of pride for me’, with 88 percent saying their ‘love of travel is a huge part of how they define themselves’. This was even more important for young families, defined as 20-to-35-year-old couples with children (91 percent), singles (85 percent) and couples (82 percent). The sentiment of travel being formative to identity is strongest in Indonesia (97 percent), India (95 percent), Philippines (94 percent), Thailand (94 percent) and Vietnam (92 percent).

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The antidote to ignorance: When it comes to the personal benefits of travel, there is a sense that it empowers people to feel more “knowledgeable” (55 percent) and “open-minded” (51 percent). One survey respondent shared: “As the comedian Trevor Noah said, “Traveling is the antidote to ignorance. What truly motivates me to travel is the excitement, the urge to experience different cultures, food, to meet new people and live their lives for those few days. As the quote says, traveling is the solution to ignorance.”

Social currency and expertise: Three in four Asia Pacific travelers aspire to be an ‘expert’ within their social circle and the first to discover new locations. Interestingly, wanting to be ‘the first one of their friends to visit or experience a destination’ is significantly more important to young families (82 percent), as compared to singles (69 percent) and couples (59 percent).

Technology and the future of travel

Traditional sources of information, such as word-of-mouth (55 percent), online travel publications (50 percent), official tourism websites and the social media accounts of friends and family (both 49 percent), serve as travel inspiration for travelers today. However, travelers in Asia Pacific see a clear role for technology tomorrow – with virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) being essential in delivering a more fun and immersive experience:

Virtual fun: Two in five travelers believe that the use of VR and AR could help make travel more fun in the future. Forty-five percent also saw the potential of virtual/inanimate influencers as a source of influence for their next destination.

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Immersive inspiration: One in two travelers would be enticed by “virtual or augmented reality” tours of their destination to get inspiration for their holiday.

Smooth sailing: More than half of APAC travelers feel that technology can be adopted to speed up check-in and manage their whole trip better. Young families are more likely to see the benefit of tech being used by updating them with push alerts (48 percent), offering inspiration on destinations (49 percent), and delivering tailored in-room entertainment (40 percent).

The Importance of Experiential Travel

Aspirations around “traveling the world” tops travelers’ bucket lists – though it is the desire to try new experiences and connect with culture that is cited most:

Making it count: Two in three travelers seek ‘once-in-a-lifetime experiences’ as a key aspect of travel that they desire. This is largely driven by younger travelers (73 percent of 20-to-24-year-olds).

Extraordinary experiences: The “uniqueness of the destination or experience” has the most influence on deciding where people want to travel (55 percent). This is more important to young families (63 percent) than singles or couples (both 48 percent), and to travelers in Indonesia (76 percent), Philippines (71 percent), Vietnam (67 percent) and India (66 percent).

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While cultural immersion has been a trending travel phenomenon, specific types of experiences are being sought out by Asia Pacific travelers:

Tracing the roots of local cuisine: ‘Visiting a local food market to learn and pick your own ingredients for an authentic meal’ is by far the top experience that APAC travelers desire (38 percent). One respondent shared: “Trying the local dishes is too simple, I would like to track back to where all the ingredients are raised, grown or caught and try remake the dishes from the beginning. Talking about it already makes me super excited!”

Access and authenticity: VIP experiences associated with “private access” (73 percent) and “local culture and authenticity” (71 percent) both play an important role in attracting travelers to visit a new or different destination.

Region of Japanophiles: Japan continues to top Asia Pacific travelers’ bucket list of travel destinations, with Australia not far behind. However, beyond Japan’s “spectacular landscape”, “local experiences” around culture and cuisine have strong influence in attracting them to visit.